How to Decide on a CDL Training School near Old Harbor Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Old Harbor AK. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you’ll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Old Harbor residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you’ll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Old Harbor AK, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate with Class A licenses are:
- Interstate or Intrastate Tractor Trailers
- Trucks with Double or Triple Trailers
- Tanker Trucks
- Livestock Carriers
- Class B and Class C Vehicles
Class B CDL. A Class B Commercial Drivers License is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate with Class B licenses are:
- Tractor Trailers
- Dump Trucks
- Cement Mixers
- Large Buses
- Class C Vehicles
Both Class A and Class B CDLs may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Old Harbor AK truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Old Harbor AK area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Old Harbor AK schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alaska licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alaska and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Old Harbor AK schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Old Harbor AK schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Old Harbor AK schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alaska, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alaska testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it’s imperative that the Old Harbor AK school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Old Harbor AK employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Old Harbor AK area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Old Harbor AK?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Old Harbor Alaska area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Old Harbor, Alaska
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 26.5 square miles (68.7 km2), of which 20.5 square miles (53.2 km2) is land and 6.0 square miles (15.5 km2), or 22.59%, is water.
The community of Old Harbor has its origins in the era of Russian conquest. On August 14, 1784, Grigory Shelikhov with 130 Russian fur traders massacred (see Awa'uq Massacre) several hundred Qik’rtarmiut Sugpiat tribe of Alutiiq men, women and children at Refuge Rock, a tiny stack island off the eastern coast of Sitkalidak Island. In Alutiiq, this sacred place is known as Awa'uq ("to become numb").
Old Harbor first appeared on the 1880 U.S. Census as an unincorporated village with 160 residents: 155 Inuit and 5 Creole (Mixed Russian and Native). It returned with 86 residents in 1890, all Native. It did not return again until 1920. It formally incorporated in 1966.
Choose the Right Truck Driver School Old Harbor AK
Choosing the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Old Harbor AK.
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